Fourth Way Perspectives


Selected questions and responses from The Gurdjieff Legacy Foundation group meetings.

Question: I have a habit of drinking a cup of tea and reading something at the same time. It gives me a feeling of comfort, even pleasure. But at the same time I realize it's a habit, something mechanical. During the week observing the postures, I came to the realization of how mechanical I am. I was in the kitchen, making myself a cup of tea, and all the time I was trying to remember myself, to be in the body. I found it was easier than before to stay present, to be in the body since I had to move slower, with more awareness, due to the leg injury. When the tea was ready I caught myself moving my hand in the direction of the book I've been reading. I realized at that moment that I acted like a machine that was programmed to do the same thing over again in a certain situation. I had to make an effort not to grab the book. So, I concentrated on the tea—its flavor, taste, aroma, temperature. I experienced my arm moving, my hand holding the cup. All this gave the feeling of peace and presence.

Response: To actually realize, admit to myself the truth of my observation, that what Mr. Gurdjieff says is true—that I am mechanical—is a necessary fundamental step. For otherwise, all my observations are skewed because the foundation—the idea that I have an indivisible I, free will, can do and so forth—is faulty. Note what you said about having to move more slowly. This helped you to see because it was not natural to you. It took you out of your habitual tempo. To intentionally move slower or faster allows for new observation.

Q: I felt this call. There was a tension in the stomach and...

R: Tension, in itself, is not a call. It is a reaction.

Q: Well, there has been a lot of change. And what is being experienced is a flatness. There is a remembrance of first entering the Work, that there were times when there was a similar experience. But then there was a sense of sadness or loss. Now this is entirely different. It is difficult to express what is felt and sensed in this flatness except to say that a big difference is the absence of inner drama.... Also, what is different is the relationship to the outer world. That is something stable. The flatness is not a dullness, rather there is an inner something that is constant and with that a sense of "peace," a sense of "all-rightness" however things or situations are, a deep taste of the temporal nature of things/situations and of something that is not temporal.

R: We 'die' many times before we physically die. But usually I am in such reaction and resistance that it is not experienced. Psychic death takes the "life" out of our experience. Physical death has no future. That's also the experience with psychic death, though of course it is not true. This is a cause of the flatness. But, as you observe, because of your work on yourself you are able to recognize a stability and peace and all-rightness. In one's death—how do we know there is death? When my former life lies like shards of broken glass at my feet—what is it that observes, knows that there has been this death? The living recognition of this will break all hold of the temporal.

Q: Last meeting you talked about not working with nonexpression of negative emotions but on the contrary to express them in order to see them. In the faux-Gurdjieff work I was in for many years the idea was to not express negative emotions, so your words were very surprising. I went ahead and tried to experience it. I expressed negative emotions during the week, but I wasn't satisfied by the result. I am confused now with what my attitude should be, as Ouspensky talks about the necessity of working with this idea.

R: To truly observe, one must first remember oneself. That is, activate the instinctive center. The group you refer to is a faux group, its leader never having been in the Work. Hence, he only works from the head. He doesn't know the body. That's why the body erupts on him. He can't control it because he does not consciously know it, has not integrated it. Thus, it leads him into serious and serial transgressions. As I see it, he hooks his students by appealing to their spiritual hubris, telling them they are hand-picked by Jesus Christ and that he, himself, is the only true esoteric teacher on the planet, and so forth. It's all absurd, but idealists under a strong influence of self-love and vanity are trapped by it. The more mature see the trap but don't have the courage to leave. They rationalize and suppress their "negative emotions." Thus, in my view, they aid and abet the transgressions and so become responsible.

Now, as to negative emotions, how can one know what they are if one does not express them? But, of course, express them when properly observing oneself. Doing so, the time will come when the work is to not express them. The true work with negative emotions—and not the negative emotions we normally think of—begins with the second conscious shock. At this point, we have not yet come to the first conscious shock.

Q: During the last few weeks I have been experiencing a great deal of emotional turmoil, and I remember something that you said. It was when life becomes hard to handle then it is important to fall back on one's practice. But I feel that my practice is not strong enough to stand in the way of all the agitation that I've been feeling.

R: Geometrically, life can be represented as a wave and also a spiral, not just one wave and spiral but many. My identification with what the waves and spirals carry—their content—paralyzes my perception. Whether I am up or down or coming around the same turn again, I need to reaffirm my faith in consciousness. Consciousness is all and everything and nothing. Or, rather, no-thing. Only the practice of sitting in the morning and evening, being serious about exercises, reading the Work literature and attending meetings—no matter how I may feel—renders a self-initiation into the Work that can act as a support for and opening up of perception, no matter the content of what is perceived.

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